School meals caterer faces lesson in delivery
Catering company ISS took over the delivery of school meals earlier this year but since the start of term six weeks ago constant problems over ordering, delivery and quality are so bad the district council is considering tearing up its million pound contract.
The company has apologised for the inconvenience and said it was doing everything it could to make sure the service was as efficient as it promised.
In September the Newbury Weekly News reported how a first day disaster of no food arriving at all was averted at Robert Sandilands Primary School in Newbury with moments to spare.
However, despite promises by ISS to iron out problems with the new ordering software, the council said it was failing in the majority of its state schools.
It also emerged that school staff have helped out at “unreasonable and untenable levels” to ensure children are being adequately fed, and that compensation could run into thousands of pounds.
At a meeting of West Berkshire Council’s executive on Thursday, the portfolio holder for education, Irene Neill (Con, Aldermaston) said that the default notice had been served on the company who had been summoned to explain the problems to a group of education figures, including angry headteachers.
“It is very disappointing that ISS have failed to deliver what was outlined in the tender to the level of reliability and functionality as promised,” she said.
“Officers have pressed for resolution of these issues as quickly as possible, we recognise progress has not been as quick as we would have liked.
“We are aware of the significant amount of time and effort schools have put in and have spoke to ISS. This is considerably more than what should be expected, to unreasonable and untenable levels, and ISS need to consider how to compensate schools for it.”
The shadow portfolio holder, Alan Macro (Lib Dem, Theale) and Mortimer councillor Mollie Lock (Lib Dem), who raised the issue at the meeting, said pressure must be kept on ISS, who issued an apology when approached for comment.
A spokeswoman for ISS, Louise Ulrich, said: ”From the first day, we have worked with the schools and West Berkshire Council to resolve any issues as they arose and are confident that the majority are now in the past.
“Where we introduced wireless meal ordering from the class rooms, we experienced some connectivity problems, but these have been resolved. For the small number of schools still experiencing slow connectivity, we are investigating booster hubs and hard wired connections.
“We greatly appreciate the patience of the schools and teaching staff, who have been very supportive throughout the mobilisation process.”